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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

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Tansley - the Gardener's Village:

The village of Tansley snuggles into the west facing hillside beneath the shelter of the 800 foot High Ordish Ridge which separates the valleys of the Amber and Derwent, with extensive views down the Derwent Valley towards Matlock, one and a half miles away to the west.

The A615 Matlock to Alfreton road passes through Tansley, although the main part of the village lies along either side of Church Street, which runs northwards from the main Nottingham Road beside the well known Tavern at Tansley, and through the heart of the village to the Gate Inn at it’s northern end on Whitelea Lane.

However, perhaps the most scenic approach is from the Chesterfield to Matlock road, where a left turn at the top of Slack Hill along Lant Lane leads over Tansley Moor, before a right turn down Whitelea Lane runs downhill into the village from the north.

Crossing Tansley Moor accords dramatic views to the south and west, with Crich Stand visible on the southern skyline to the left, whilst the skeletal outline of the derelict Riber Castle is clearly visible on Riber Hill to the right.

This same view, minus the man-made structures, must have been familiar to the Romans almost two thousand years ago, for a Roman pig of lead from the lead-mining centre of Lutudarum was unearthed along an ancient British trackway on Tansley Moor during the nineteenth century.

There has been a settlement here since Anglo-Saxon times, and at the time of the Norman Conquest the village of `Taneslege’ was registered as the `King’s Land’, the Lord of the Manor being one Ralph FitzHubert.

At Domesday, Tansley was a berewick in the Manor of Metesford (Matlock Bridge) and two centuries later was granted to the Knights Templar. Eventually, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry V111 the manor was sold to the Earl of Shrewsbury and in turn to the Duke of Newcastle, from whom it finally descended to the Duke of Portland.

From the earliest times Tansley was an agricultural community, and continued as such until the first signs of industry began to appear, with mills mainly in Lumsdale, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

There was a mill at Tansley too which once stood on the site currently occupied by Tansley House, now a residential centre, but formerly the Tansley Hydro, run in Victorian times by William Mycock.

Within living memory there were seven working farms in the village, and for many years until relatively recently the village milk was supplied by the dairy herd at Spout Farm courtesy of Farmer Walker.

Bulmer’s Directory of Derbyshire for 1895 lists nine farms, and notes that “the soil is of excellent quality, and a considerable portion of land is occupied by nurseries”.

Those nurseries belonged to sundry unrelated Smiths. Samuel Smith was at Scotland Nurseries, and Joseph Arrow Smith at Moor Edge, whilst both James Smith and Stephen Smith were listed as `nurserymen of Tansley’.

The nurseries continue today, along with four garden centres, thus justifying Tansley’s claim as the `gardener’s village’.

Scotland Nurseries and Garden Centre on Alfreton Road has been here the longest and also has a delightful coffee-shop. Further down the hill towards Matlock are Neil Thompson’s Knabb Hall Nurseries, proclaimed by a roadside sign to be the `Real Nurseries’.

But the largest and most modern is the Matlock Garden Centre, Waterlife and Pet Centre, complete with coffee-shop and restaurant which stands lower down the hill near the junction with Nottingham Road. The tunnel greenhouses of Smith’s stand on the opposite side of the road, seemingly almost in the shadow of Riber, whilst lower still and either side of Thatcher’s Lane are the premises of William Gregory’s Timber Yard, which have flourished there for almost a century and a half.

Tansley is also home to Slack’s Bus Company, and the growing family electrical business of H. Strange & Son, and on Holly Lane freezer expert, Ian Strange.

Jack Hill Farm on Nottingham Road has good holiday accommodation, whilst almost opposite Thatcher’s Lane stands the well known Tavern at Tansley, with it’s large car park opposite.

Beside the Tavern is the turn into Church Street, whilst beyond at the bottom of the hill is Alders Lane and a left turn which leads up towards Riber Castle. On the bend stands the Lorna Cross Nurseries with it’s vast emporium of unusual and exotic gifts, whilst almost opposite is the Royal Oak, perhaps the oldest of Tansley’s three pubs with a datestone of 1765. The Landlord has some wonderful old sepia-tinted photographs of the village hanging on his walls – and serves excellent meals with fine ales to match in this charming roadside hostelry.

Today Tansley has around one thousand inhabitants spread across a sprawling parish which includes both Riber and Lumsdale, but with the nucleus of it’s residents clustered together along, or just off Church Street.

Mid-way along the appropriately named Church Street, on rising ground, stands Holy Trinity Parish Church of 1840, with its square crenallated tower rising above the surrounding rooftops and amidst a well kept graveyard which extends at the rear towards the Tansley Primary School.

The Methodist Church, originally of 1829, further south along Church Street is well supported and has a small and neat, largely nineteenth century graveyard, and a sign-board which tells that the vicar holds services every Sunday at 10-30am and 6pm.

Tansley Village Hall, with the Old School at the rear, stands on the corner at the bottom of Spout Lane, which leads up to Spout House Farm – and to the magnificent Victorian terrace of Masson Row (1898) which overlooks the village green at the very heart of Tansley.

From here the village can be seen to be almost enclosed by wooded hills, except to the west where the vista opens to allow wonderful views down the valley to Matlock and beyond. A children’s play area compliments the scene, and the village brook runs culverted under the road to re-appear beside the flats at the top of The Knoll, from where it rushes down the valley towards the old mill pools and dams of Lumsdale.

Beyond the Old Rectory and opposite the northern end of the village green by The Knoll stands the well-stocked Tansley Village Shop and Post Office, and on higher ground further north where Church Street bends upwards to become Whitelea Lane is the village’s third pub, The Gate, known for it’s restaurant - and especially famous for it’s Sunday lunches!

There has been much restoration work in recent years on the mill complex and old bleach works down in Lumsdale, which is itself a veritable treasure of industrial archeology; the old bobbin mill has been restored and signposts guide you on fascinating walks through Lumsdale’s industrial heritage. Tansley’s modern equivalent lies in the valley below beside the Matlock Road where the burgeoning Brookfield Industrial Estate houses a growing number and variety of modern industries.

Tansley has changed much over the centuries, farms are turning increasingly to tourism and modern in-filling has seen more new developments here over the last twenty-five years than perhaps any other village of it’s size in this area of Derbyshire.

Tansley nevertheless retains it’s wonderfully close-knit community spirit with over thirty clubs and associations meeting regularly in the village - including a group twinned with it’s Romanian counterpart of Babadag - and a new Well Dressing group which dressed it’s first-ever well in July 2002!

There is far more to Tansley than immediately meets the eye as any walk around the village will show; the old and new blend together harmoniously and give the village a character of its own.

The travelling wayfarer is thus assured of an interesting and worthwhile visit to the Derbyshire hill-village of Tansley – where an especially warm welcome to the `gardener’s village’ awaits those with green fingers!

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